Vietnam, a place full of opportunities

By Ben Murtagh|April 25, 2017|SOAS Students, SOAS teachers|0 comments

Mrs Thu Trang Tran is our Senior Teaching Fellow in Vietnamese – here she talks about her experiences teaching Vietnamese at SOAS

Coming to London 7 years ago, I never imagined that I would become a language teacher here, yet this job has given me 6 amazing years as member of the Department of South East Asia at, a unique and beautifully integrated environment. Not only am I inspired by my young, exciting students from all over the world, I also get the chance to learn and understand more about my country, about its culture and history.

​Núi Bà Đen, Tây Ninh – Photo by Josh Black

Some might know that Vietnamese is a tonal language, which is such a strange concept to many people, especially Westerners. But it is definitely not as difficult as they may think. Most of our students can manage to master the tones quite well because they only need to be able to raise or drop their voice at the right time; the best comparison is with singing. And singing is always fun, isn’t it? Apart from the tones, Vietnamese grammar is relatively easy compared with many other languages because words do not change their forms according to the number, party, tense, modality… And unlike some other South East Asian languages, we use the Roman alphabet, which makes it much easier than the scripts used in, for example, Thai and Burmese.

Modern Hanoi – photo by Thu Trang Tran

Seeing my students learn Vietnamese, I see myself many years ago trying to learn English. It makes me think about how things have changed and how language has helped to bring the world closer. English has given me a lot of opportunities; it has broadened my knowledge and helps me travel around the world. Many students choose to study Vietnamese with a similar wish, to explore the world, to know more about different cultures and seek opportunities in Vietnam, a country full of potential and among the most important emerging markets in the world.

During my 6 years at SOAS, I never cease to be inspired by my students, by their desire for knowledge, their exciting ideas, their great determination and dedications to the subject. I have followed some students from their first days at SOAS through four years of language study and even to their PhD courses and have been amazed by how they have matured over the years, from being overwhelmed with the new and independent environment to being so confident and knowledgeable, from knowing nothing about Vietnamese to speaking, understanding and reading news in Vietnamese comfortably. Some go on to do research about Vietnam as PhD students, some find jobs and work in Vietnam in teaching, journalism and the film industry, while others have gone there to visit and do charity jobs. For all of them, Vietnam really has a lot to offer and has given them fascinating and unforgettable experiences.

Old Quarter in Hoi An – Photo by Thu Trang Tran

Given the number of recent initiatives and new policies introduced by the Vietnamese government to boost economic growth and international integration, there are plenty of opportunities in Vietnam in term of careers and research. If you are interested to further your opportunities South East Asia, Vietnam is an excellent choice. We always welcome all enquiries and visits by students who are interested in learning Vietnamese at SOAS

Thu Trang Tran, April 2017

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